Quoted from the Anonymous Liberal blog:
I'm serious. The more I look at what happened today, the more I think it was all an elaborate attempt to stem the fallout from the truly disastrous interview Sarah Palin taped this morning with Katie Couric. In that interview, Palin did two things that hurt the McCain campaign and, but for McCain's late afternoon shenanigans, would have garnered much more attention. First, buying into the premise of one of Couric's questions, she all but stated that if no bailout legislation is passed, we'll be headed into the next Great Depression. Even if true, that's not a very smart thing for a politician to say and, importantly, it all but foreclosed any possibility of McCain voting against the bailout.
Then she was asked a crucially important question about McCain's record on banking regulation, something she should have been prepped for:
For those of you who can't view videos, here's the exchange:
COURIC: But he's been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.
PALIN: He's also known as the maverick, though. Taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he's been talking about — the need to reform government.
COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time, not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation?
PALIN: I'll try to find you some, and I'll bring them to you.
That is not a good soundbite. Not only does it confirm that Palin is in way over her head, but every time the clip is played, viewers get to hear Couric point out that McCain has a 26 year record of not favoring regulations.
While there's certainly a lot going on right now, I'm pretty confident that if McCain hadn't engaged in his late afternoon theatrics, those two Palin clips would have been in heavy circulation tonight and tomorrow, especially in light of the mini-press corps revolt that everyone was talking about yesterday.
I think the McCain campaign knew the Couric interview would be a disaster as soon as it was done taping and spent much of the day frantically trying to think of a way to push it out of the headlines. The clincher for me is the fact that McCain cancelled his Letterman appearance at the last second and instead sat down for an impromptu interview with, of all people, Katie Couric. The hope was to bump the Palin interview even on the CBS Evening News, which otherwise would have hyped and teased the Palin interview all afternoon and used it to lead the broadcast. Instead, CBS devoted most of its coverage to McCain and played segments of the Palin interview almost as an afterthought. Mission accomplished.
Now the McCain campaign is trying to reschedule the Vice Presidential debate. Undoubtedly they'd like to move it back as far as possible to give Palin more time to prepare. And it wouldn't shock me if they tried to cancel it all together or at least move it to a date where it can only dominate one or two new cycles before being eclipsed by other events (like a presidential debate).
Palin's favorability ratings have been sinking rapidly over the last two weeks and she is increasingly becoming a liability to McCain among independent voters. I think the campaign was worried that her performance today--if the media chose to dwell on it--could have done real lasting harm to McCain. And so they came up with this stunt, this idea of McCain "suspending" his candidacy, as a distraction. I'm sure that's not the only reason they did this, but I think it was one of the primary reasons. I'm hopeful that people will see this as the gimmick that it is. But regardless, it did succeed in dominating the news cycle and minimizing the attention that was paid to Palin's interview.
UPDATE: Okay, here's the full segment. It's cringe-inducing throughout. As you're watching it, try to picture McCain's aides standing in the background panicking.